“Isn’t ADHD mostly found in boys? It’s not really a problem for girls, is it?”
The stereotype most of us have of ADD (or ADHD) is a boy, running around the classroom (or the house), disrupting the class, as well as his own learning. As with most stereotypes, this image does more harm than good, and in fact, causes more than half of the cases of ADHD to be missed. There are three subtypes of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined. The stereotype referred to above obviously does not include the quietly underachieving, underestimated boy with ADHD. What is even more of a problem is it leaves out girls entirely.
For years, it was believed that only boys suffered from ADD. However, a growing body of research – and a greater awareness from parents, teachers and doctors – is finding that ADD is quite common among girls, too.
Part of the shift in recognizing this disorder in girls is societal, and part is due to a growing appreciation of symptom manifestation differences. As our society has become more equal (less sexist) in terms of expectations for both boys and girls, underachievement in girls is, thankfully, becoming less acceptable. We now know that, individual differences aside, boys and girls possess equal capabilities for learning and performance in most categories. Therefore, the inattentive (sometimes referred to as “scatterbrained” or “flighty”) girl deserves just as much attention and help as her male counterpart.
“Are the symptoms of ADHD different in girls than boys?”
The symptoms of ADHD, for the most part, are the same for both boys and girls, with two very important exceptions. Girls tend (not always) to manifest hyperactivity-impulsivity verbally. Excessive and inappropriate talking is often the female equivalent to a boy’s more physical, movement-oriented hyperactivity-impulsivity.
The second significant symptomatic difference between boys and girls with ADHD is that while boys more frequently can objectify their symptoms, they don’t really see them as something wrong about themselves. Girls with ADD can have a hard time reading social cues (boys too). They can be disliked because they are socially aggressive and disruptive. Inattentive girls become socially isolated. Girls tend to internalize performance, behavior, and social problems more readily than boys. Therefore, these problems easily become things that are “wrong” with them, and this often results in depression. Many girls with ADHD are misdiagnosed with depression, and to make matters worse, the ADHD goes untreated.
These unequal and unfair social misconceptions and symptom differences tend to cause an under-diagnosis of ADHD among girls still today. An equal opportunity for all the help we can give them is what they truly deserve.
One such method of treatment is neurofeedback, an effective, drug-free, painless procedure in which the patient learns to retrain the attention mechanisms of the brain, alleviating the condition. Once training is completed, no further treatment is necessary.
Dr. Stephen Ferrari, Alta Neuro-Imaging Neurofeedback